DotImage Streamlines County Register of Deeds (And Wins Awards)
Atalasoft | DotImage
Richland County, S.C.
Summary: Atalasoft’s DotImage SDK has a happy home in Richland County, S.C., where it shepherds hundreds of thousands of pages of public documents a year through and beyond a vital government office.
Richland, with some 385,000 residents, is the second most populous county in South Carolina. A lot of property changes hands in Columbia at the Register of Deeds every day, adding up to approximately 100,000 transactions a year—all of it essential to putting people in homes and businesses in storefronts; ensuring accurate purchases and sales; and maintaining a useful and secure public record.
With the average document consisting of three pages per package, that’s a lot of hands on paper. And a lot of gas spent driving. And a lot of waiting for clerks to receive, stamp, scan, change orientation of, proof, index, copy and return documents. And a lot of storage. And a lot of opportunity for error. And a lot of wear and tear on County equipment.
It was a problem with a light-speed solution.
According to Carolyn Yon, the County’s information technology application and development manager, Atalasoft’s DotImage led to a better way of doing business. E-filing clearly makes life easier—and greener—for the constituents, attorneys, abstractors and title companies who depend on County services.
“It’s been huge, to have an SDK we can embed so readily into our eRecording system: that’s the core of our program. Everything’s hunky-dory. It’s solid. The information technology department loves it, the Register of Deeds loves it and our constituents love it,” she said.
“We brought in an independent contractor to help develop it. He was thrilled with the functionality,” she added.
For nearly 10 years Easthampton, Mass.,-based Atalasoft has provided imaging libraries to help .NET software developers such as Richland County build document scanning, viewing, and processing into their applications by reducing development time, and eliminating expenses by offering fixed-price, royalty-free licensing. The company specializes in zero-footprint imaging technologies, allowing applications to be more competitive, easier to use, and 100 percent Web-based.
Its flagship product, DotImage, powers more than 2,000 document management, ECM, and EMR applications built by ISVs, system integrators, and enterprises deployed to millions of end users worldwide. Industries that Atalasoft serve include healthcare, financial services, legal, government, education, and manufacturing.
And it felt right at home on the front lines of County business.
Determined to modernize, in early 2010 Richland County applied for and won a $100,000 Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant to develop, implement and deliver an Internet-based Register of Deeds eRecording system designed to streamline, verify, confirm and safeguard the document submission process—regardless of the third-party software used in filing it.
As Yon describes, because the new system, launched November 2010, is built on image creation and handling facilitated by Atalasoft’s Imaging SDK, it’s compliant and flexible, allowing subscribers from submitters’ sites to file from the convenience of their own office.
The Register of Deeds further accommodates demand by making available a dozen public viewer stations on Windows boxes (for abstracting, and title searches) near the cashier’s window.
“Now, clients sitting there at the closing table typically know within an hour know if there’s a problem with their paperwork—if there’s a missed signature for example—and are able to hand off that filed deed right there, right to us. It used to take up to a week,” Yon said.
Under the hood
The Richland County Register of Deeds eRecording system had a humble beginning. DotImage was already embedded in the County’s scanning application. Once Yon and her project team began testing its capabilities, they only had one question:
“Will it do what we want? It will? Let’s go with it,” she said.
As the grant abstract describes, the document submission process is initiated via third-party software provided to the submitter from an electronic filing vendor, and is transmitted to an external Web service over the Internet. The external Web service resides on a County server. The vendor is validated for permissions and security before the data is allowed to pass through the firewall to an internal Web service. The data is then stored in a Microsoft SQL Server 2005 database, and the images are stored in a file repository.
An internal verification application is used to verify the documents, certain pieces of data that are required, and image clarity. Once the package of documents is verified, the documents are electronically filed by placement of an electronic stamp containing the book, page, date and time along with other details, and a copy returned to the submitter.
The abstract notes that Web services were already in place in the main Register of Deeds system for calculating fees. It and the table population were re-used in the process of verification and electronic filing.
According to Yon, the verification module and both internal and external Web services were developed using Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2008. The existing Main Register of Deeds system was developed using Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2005. Servers are Microsoft Server 2003.
And perhaps as a testament to Richland County’s determination to roll out eRecording, as well as a commentary on the ease of implementing Atalasoft’s SDK, Richland County completed its project and was able to report on its benefits to the funder within the few months they were allowed.
That’s remarkable, as, according to a study, only 16 percent of 2000 similar projects made it in on time and within budget in 2010.
Take a bow
Fast, easy-to-implement, and a County’s best friend. And it’s won awards.
Less than a year after launch, Richland County’s eRecording landed the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce Information Technology Council “Palmetto Pillar” award for efficiency, thanks to its external and Internal Web services, catcher verification module and catcher reporting.
That award cited eRecording’s prowess in direct filing, without making constituents wait in line, wait for service, waste gas, wait for business hours, hire a courier, or rush—often at the last minute—to the Register of Deeds office.
Another award, from the South Carolina chapter of Government Management Information Sciences, lauds Richland County as an “elite achiever” for eRecording, citing “outstanding achievement in the implementation of creative information technology.”
According to Yon, eRecording, leveraging Atalasoft’s DotImage, has real-world benefits far beyond the Register of Deeds. Because each trip constituents were making to and from the cashier’s office was approximately 15 miles, the project saved approximately 33,000 trips, for 495,000 miles in the first year.
Yon said eRecording achieved some 45 percent penetration the first year, and is targeting nearly 90 percent penetration in future years—a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in scenic Richland County.
Not bad for a document management application.